How do you find out about music that you like?

Growing up I didn’t have much taste in music. For most of my younger years the only way you heard music was through the radio or if you bought a CD. Being a big nerd I never listened to the radio and spent most of my money on games. I wouldn’t get much of a taste of music until file sharing became a thing and I could just try anything I heard people talk about.

I gravitated towards rock music and while I’ve enjoyed most genres to one degree or another, given the choice I’ll generally listen to something under the rock umbrella. (Spotify tells me I lean heavily towards indie rock and psychedelic rock)

These days the only way I really learn about music I like is through random recommendations on Spotify. While most of the time the algorithm gives me stuff I don’t particularly care for, it has introduced to me to a couple of my favorite bands I’d have never heard of otherwise.

Still, I’d rather be recommended something from an actual human being over a machine, and I’d prefer if the talk wasn’t just about whatever popular band/musician has done lately. My favorite bands have frequently turned out to be something very few people have ever actually heard about.

How do you find out about new music that appeals to you? Are there good websites looking out for new unique hits? Podcasts that cover musical territory not often traveled? A youtuber who talks about the top 10 bands you never heard of?

I can do a search for those but I feel that’s just relying on the algorithm in a more roundabout way again.

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One of my favorite ways to find new music is to go to random shows around town. I end up hearing a lot of things I normally wouldn’t find on my own and it feels good to support local acts.

  • Browse the Arts & Culture section of your local newspaper

  • Youtube Channel: Todd In the Shadows for fun (usually pop) music reviews.

  • Youtube Channel: The Needle Drop for in-depth music reviews

  • NPR Music often has neat playlists and artist features

  • Swap playlists of your Top 10 songs among friends

I understand starting to feel trapped in the Spotify algorithm

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I have the advantage of growing up with a lot of musicians, so folks know my musical tastes pretty well and recommend stuff that way. I just started to listening to CHVRCHES a bit because they’re so aggressively promoted around games (not bad!). One of my favorites, though, is Voces8, who I found out about because Facebook was aggressively promoting this video (I’ve seen these cats live; they really are this good):

I’m kinda in a similar boat. Part of it is me randomly learning about some pattern that exists in music I’m currently listening to (e.g. I recently discovered that a lot of electronic stuff I like comes from French artists), or trying to “get into” a certain genre and then working from there. But that usually just ends up taking the form of trying out the “Artists you may like” type recommendations that Amazon music and Spotify offer. Sometimes I actually do get good recommendations, but it’d also be nice to discover something I had no idea I’d like.

I use bandcamp a lot, which will have its own recommendations under any given band’s page, plus its Bandcamp Daily articles. They may basically be ads for music hosted on their site, but they tend to be pretty in-depth and cover a whoooole lotta sounds.

One other thing I recommend is going through the record label of an artist you like, if that label seems specific to certain sounds (I dunno how often this occurs outside of metal), and picking out bands/albums that catch my eye.

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Bandcamp Bandcamp Bandcamp

The Spotify system of random songs / algorithmic suggestions has never worked for me and I find that I never remember what I liked even if I take them time to look at the album art, song title, or artist. The music I find in Spotify generally stays in Spotify and ill rediscover stuff when I’m using Spotify but wont look for it elsewhere. I’m sure this is intentional.

Bandcamp feels like its designed like a record store. You look at genres, find a cover you think looks cool, hit play and see if its your jam. I’ve found some of my favourite albums through just spending an hour on a weekend browsing genres I know I like and seeing if something sticks.

Also, a lot of small/mid sized labels have bandcamp pages and labels usually stick to specific genres and sounds, so browsing those is really rewarding as well. Not to mention looking at profiles of people who buy albums I also bought and seeing what they like, because hey, if this person likes, say, Forth Wanderers like I do, they’re likely to have other stuff like Forth Wanderers and maybe I can find a great band that I never knew about.

Anyway Bandcamp rules.

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YouTube mixes have worked better, algorithmically, for me than Spotify - though I do have to put up with more repetition since it certainly knows I like Crazy Noisy Bizarre Town and will not hesitate to put it in my mix fifteen or so times.

Mostly, when I’m in the mood for something new, I google some keywords + genre until I find a promising forum or reddit post.

KEXP has introduced me to a tonnnnnnnn of dope shit

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I’m on the Spotify train and I actually enjoy ~50% of the stuff that ends up in my weekly recommend normally, maybe not always enough to save but enough to not skip.

I don’t quite get the hate for the algorithm recommendations. Maybe because I’m a data/programming nerd so the system itself seems super interesting in its own way? If anything I wish I could see why it suggested that song. That had to have been a really fun programming project.

Review sites.

For heavy music:

Heavy Blog is Heavy
Angry Metal Guy
Invisible Oranges
Stereogum’s “The Black Market”
Heavy Music HQ
Machine Music
BANGER TV YouTube Channel

For electronic music:

Headphone Commute
Dusted Magazine
Igloo Magazine
Boomkat’s “Recommended New Releases”
Resident Advisor
Fluid Radio

Experimental, Avant-Garde, Miscellaneous

The Wire Magazine (print mag)
musique machine
Avant Music News
Forced Exposure
Brainwashed
Exposé

Various Genres (including some of the above)
Exclaim!
The Quietus
PopMatters
Bandcamp Daily
Pitchfork

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I’m gonna third (fourth?) Bandcamp here. There’s Bandcamp daily, a weekly “Essential releases,” monthly roundups of a few genres, and of course they also have an annual top 50. There is certainly a little to be desired in trying to navigate the blog in which all these lists are maintained, but getting the right search terms can usually find what you’re looking for. They’ll also promote different sub-genres, obscure bands, and they’re awesome for giving international musicians exposure.

Sputnik Music is my second source, though I’ll admit the userbase is pretty wanky, especially on metal. They’ll usually report on releases by a few of the larger rock/metal artists I like, but it’s also fairly easy to use their rating system to find well-liked music in a broad range of genres. They also do end-of-year lists which represent all types of music.

Other than those two, just the odd recommendations from places like this forum and people I know.

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I think this is one of the few saving graces of social media, personally. One of the things I found to be super helpful is following my favorite local venues on Facebook and keeping an eye on who’s going to be playing. Whenever a new show is announced, I take a listen to the bands and go from there. I’ve found MANY of my now favorite bands from this.

I’ve also found following members of some of my favorite (smaller) bands on social media (even on Instagram) to be surprisingly helpful. Obviously not everyone does this, but a lot of times they post about whatever they’re listening to that has caught their attention and I check that out. In other words, I will listen to what people I listen to listen to. (Yeesh, that’s a sentence right there.)

In the old days, I had a record store I’d go to, and I’d pick out random CD’s on a whim and that was the best way.

Now it’s Bandcamp, SoundCloud (don’t @ me) and friends who keep on the pulse much better than me.

For anyone in university, or lives around a university, they might have a radio station, this can be a good way to find music too!

Spotify’s discover weekly feature is genuinely great. Despite my fairly eclectic taste in music it regularly recommends really interesting stuff.

I read Tom Breihan’s Status Ain’t Hood column on Stereogum on a semi-regular basis to find out about rap music that I wouldn’t normally come across via the algorithm.

The dude’s a veteran white-guy-with-rap-opinions so take from that what you will, but he tends to highlight a decent plurality of rappers which has helped me to discover the good stuff in a genre that’s only getting more crowded by the day.

Music journalism - still good!

I am very bad at this, mainly because I don’t try to be good at it, I guess. Ironically, I’ve discovered more music via (especially “indie”*) video games than via any other process over the last couple of decades. (I don’t have Spotify, because the one time I tried to use the free version of it it annoyed me so deeply that I never wanted to touch it ever again. I miss the old [pre CBD acquisition 2007] last.fm :frowning: )

I guess Bandcamp has sometimes been useful too, and I’ve found interesting things on Jamendo (which also, like Bandcamp, has good tools for finding CC-licensed music, which is important to me as [vanilla] copyright is bad).

*indie in the sense of “doing something interesting with a low budget”, I guess?